A Thanksgiving lesson for the #MeToo movement

In starting the holiday during the Civil War, Lincoln sought not only to encourage gratitude but a humility to repent. The current civil strife over sexual wrongdoing will require similar penitence.

AP Photo
Participants march against sexual assault and harassment at a #MeToo March in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles on Nov. 12.

When he proclaimed the national holiday called Thanksgiving in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln did more than ask Americans to be grateful for God’s blessings during a time of civil strife. He also asked them to express “humble penitence” for their “disobedience.” The idea of confessing one’s failings and regretting them is no longer part of Thanksgiving. Yet given the current civil strife over so many public figures being accused of sexual wrongdoing, perhaps humility and repentance should be on the menu this holiday.

So far, almost all of the men in politics, media, sports, and Hollywood who have admitted to sexual harassment or assault did so only after a few brave women made allegations against them in public. The #MeToo movement has now helped lift a social stigma for many abused women while bringing to light past wrongs. Yet “to heal the wounds of the nation” (Lincoln’s words in his proclamation) will require more than remorse and apologies after being accused. It will require those who have abused women and girls (or men and boys) to come forth voluntarily and admit their acts.

Such truth-telling, especially if not done out of fear of being accused, will take as much courage as that shown by the accusers. Those confessing may face severe punishment. Yet to admit a sin, as well as regret it and accept whatever justice or repair is needed, is a step toward destroying its power over one’s self. It may also assist others in doing the same, much like the freedom felt among abused women who, after years of silence, have followed the examples of others who went public with their charges.

Lincoln saw penitence as a path to restore the nation “as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes.” Humility is a form of prayer. It is self-examination that does not change God or others but rather one’s own thinking. It does not come with an expectation of mercy or pardon but rather with a desire for reform and restoration.

The Civil War was a tragedy as much as the sexual harms being revealed today. Yet one lesson of that war should not be forgotten. In the middle of it, Lincoln sought to uplift and heal all sides by declaring a day of thanksgiving, not only with a call for gratitude but also a call for meek admission of wrongdoing.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to A Thanksgiving lesson for the #MeToo movement
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today